Exhibition time: thinking inside the boxes

And breathe.

We’ve just had our end of year exhibition, the first in our new building, and the first time too I’ve put a student in a box for 3 hours. So breathe indeed, because it all went well and thankfully Ryan survived. And this alone, for the future of illustration, will prove to be a good thing.

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Year 12 student Ryan, in his box. Explanation to follow…

 But let’s start at the beginning. Regarding our new building, we are still currently under the ‘snagging and defects period’ which basically means even putting a shelf up is a strict no-go.  So we didn’t dare ask about painting a mural on the nice new walls…

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…although I may have forgotten to mention that to Year 12 Millie.

Once over the threshold, visitors were greeted with our introductory text (about thresholds, actually), and then with Ryan in aforementioned box, which, truth be told, evolved from our frustrations with the perspex display boards that arrived attached to the building (I know: a new build and a view to die for, and still complaining the display boards aren’t up to scratch?! Artists eh?).

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Luckily we’d discovered that if you open up all the display doors and view them simultaneously through one end, they become much more interesting – layers of clear surfaces, great for doodling on with a board pen (or insulating tape etc.). Hours of fun, in an illusionary, Channel 4 indent-style way. Hence our creation of a box that suggested an artist’s viewpoint in 3 dimensions.

Ryan’s studies of students working in the department seemed the perfect introduction to an exhibition aimed at celebrating experimentation as much as final outcomes. And the good man that he is, he raised near £100 for charity by selling a photocopied book of his studies.

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Next, we set about converting the classrooms and corridor space into various sections. This included an introductory area displaying Year 12 mark making experiments alongside some of their ventures into abstraction and the disruption of traditions.

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One classroom was dedicated to GCSE work, including some great paintings and these wonderful Year 10 puppets:

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The entrance to the 6th form studio was given to that drawing (and accompanying video) by Mo, alongside some of the work produced by Year 12 students (set in response to their continued fascination of Mo’s efforts):

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The view from our studio space really is special and it made sense to keep within the landscape theme. Year 13 Eirrin’s experiments played a big part here, alongside large shell studies by Year 12 Katrina and relief studies by Year 13 Georgia. Eirrin’s walks along the coast journeying between representation and abstraction have added a breath of fresh air to her year; the central plinth displayed some of the notes and sketches from these walks.

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And watching over these was our wall of various portraits – selected painting experiments and outcomes produced by Year 12 and 13:

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Back in the corridor, partly disguised as a shipping container, was Year 13 Julia’s installation. This work really merits a blog post on its own, such is the impact that it has had on visitors. In a nutshell – or more accurately a 16ft x 4ft box – Julia has created a powerful sensory critique of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and his absurd accusation that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.

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Below is a short video clip of the interior which contains charred sticks, dripping with oil, forming Chinese lettering. Opposite this is a red Koi carp, a reference to China again, collaged from found materials, attached to a drip full of oil.

And below is Julia’s installation film. The soundtrack is also layered with her own vocals, which frankly are remarkable (and if you don’t believe me, treat yourself on iTunes, she is a fantastic songwriter. You heard her here first).

Installation Video from Julia Hanlon on Vimeo.

Alongside this we installed a little catwalk for visitors to strut past a selection of work from our trip to a fashion-themed BPB 2016. This included Seb’s playful fashion video / interview mash-up:

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Our photography room also had a significant makeover. Year 13 Chloe’s video appropriations greeted visitors, her film ‘The Celebrity Facade’ projected into a smashed television.

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Here’s her bitingly cool take on the ‘celebrity facade’:

And then there was Gabe’s Vespa, which might as well have been added to the register this year for its appearances in class.

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This accompanied his great documentary work on local scooter culture, alongside his marathon project ’24 portraits in 24 hours’. Check out his explanation below. As photography students go, he is the real deal. Once again, more to follow.

Here’s a few other shots from the photography room:

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Due to moving into our new build we didn’t have an exhibition last year, and so we (staff and Year 13 photographers) felt that our experience in Paris at the start of the course seemed appropriate to include. You can read more about this here. Obviously we wouldn’t wish for a recurrence, but there is no doubt that these few days forged a significant bond across the group.

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The installation we created shared a selection of photos, screenshots of text messages, video work, and also an interactive element with reference to our ‘Paris Traces’ experiments.

Over the last week we have been teaching our lessons in the exhibition space (always the best part) and this installation has proven a most effective way to demonstrate how ‘art can make people powerful’, even when they might feel power-less.

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Okay, enough for now. I’m aware I’ve singled out particular examples above while there is plenty more that I’ve missed, so I’ll definitely aim to share more in the next gap. There is lots to celebrate.

On a personal note, it really is a treat to work with such dedicated students and staff. They have every reason to feel very proud.

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